Fernando Alonso says he is “not at all” frustrated with Aston Martin’s regression down the order across the 2023 Formula 1 season.
Alonso’s arrival at Aston Martin over the winter coincided with the team emerging as a surprise front-running force to score six podiums during the opening eight races.
However, the Silverstone squad has only picked up one further top-three finish in the past seven races, at Zandvoort in the round immediately after the summer break.
Having been tipped to feature at the sharp end upon F1’s return to a high-downforce track in Singapore, Aston Martin was unable to capitalise on Red Bull’s struggles.
Alonso, who had scored points at every round prior to Singapore, endured an incident-ridden race, culminating in him being last of the classified runners.
But it was revealed after the race that Alonso had lost a suspension fairing early in proceedings, with the Spaniard hinting that it cost him substantial lap time.
“It was not helping,” he said when asked about the damage. “We know how much it affected but we will not share. But it was significant, so I’m a little less worried about the performance in Singapore after knowing the damage that we had.
“The pace was not the real one on the race and we felt that maybe we could have followed the train of the leaders and had less problems with the Alpine and [Sergio] Perez and everything that changed after. When you are not too fast you get into a lot of problems.”
Nevertheless, Alonso could only qualify seventh on Saturday, ending up 0.6s away from Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz, who claimed his second consecutive pole position.
The two-time F1 champion asserts Aston Martin must understand why it failed to seize the opportunity provided by Red Bull’s absence at the front of the field.
“Yeah, qualifying was close, was very tight and maybe I expected a bit higher qualifying position,” he admitted. “But it was only six tenths I think from pole position on a long track.
“The thing that changed a little bit [was] who was on pole position, because six-tenths from Red Bull maybe was the average of the season, but Red Bull was not dominant in Singapore and we didn’t take that opportunity, so that was the thing we need to obviously understand, we need to be aware of the challenging we are facing.”
Fernando Alonso (ESP) Aston Martin F1 Team AMR23. 16.09.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 16, Singapore Grand Prix, Marina Bay Street Circuit, Singapore, Qualifying Day.
Since beginning the campaign as Red Bull’s closest contender, both Mercedes and Ferrari have overhauled Aston Martin in the standings, while McLaren is closing the team down after recovering from a torrid start.
However, Alonso insists that Aston Martin already anticipated dropping behind its rivals as the development race intensified, detailing that the side is still growing compared to the top teams it is competing with.
“At the beginning of the year we had a fast car, but we already said at the beginning we were facing a huge challenge in-season because our main competitors are huge organisations and very top teams, so it was more or less expected Ferrari, Mercedes they will match our pace and potentially go ahead,” Alonso explained.
“Mercedes took not too long to be in that position, Ferrari took a little bit longer, and McLaren as well now they are very strong. We have to accept that we need to raise our level off-track as well and the rate of development has to be a little bit faster next year, but this is a very new team, and this is a new position for us and even the new factory is just aiming to match this kind of development that others can do during [the] season.
“So it’s not that we just accept this and we are okay with the situation; we just know that it’s a learning season in many fronts.”
Alonso has also denied any notion that he has become agitated by Aston Martin’s progressive decline, adding that the recent tough run will act as a good learning curve.
Pressed on whether he upheld a slight frustration that the team had tailed off, Alonso replied: “Not at all.
“I’m extremely happy with the project also in difficult races like Singapore or Monza, all our debriefs, all our meetings with the factory they are extremely productive, it’s the weekends where we learn more in the season. The steps that we plan ahead for the future, for next year, when we come to those races are huge and I never saw that sort of scale in terms of ideas and put things on the table.
“The motivation that the team has to become a top team and the resources and the determination is just outstanding, so I’m very happy.
“But as I said, we have to accept that everyone here has a very high level, everyone has great designers, great team, wind tunnels, all these type of things.
“So when we think about our wind tunnel that we build next year, and we have high hopes, most of the top teams they have that wind tunnel for a few years, so we will just level the capacity. This is something that we need to have our feet in the ground as well.”
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